Last week I mentioned the term ‘People’s Car’ which makes everyone think of VW,
but I wrote that another country also produced their own ‘People’s Car’, and it
was the first private car built in that country. I asked what country was it? It
was China with the car being produced by the Mao Tse-tung government in 1951.
So to this week. In 1907 you could buy a four cylinder, shaft drive,
continuously variable transmission (CVT) motorcycle. What was it?
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The way of the future is to electrical power even more than just now.
Many features in the vehicles of the future can be adapted and handled better by
electricity, and this includes brakes and steering. “X-by-wire” is certainly
here to stay.
However, the auto industry is stuck with a conundrum. All vehicles need some
propulsion unit, and whilst fuel cells and all-electric vehicles are being made,
they cannot (currently) be made cheaply enough to be considered mass transport.
In that area, the internal combustion engine still reigns supreme; after all, we
have been progressively refining it for over 100 years.
The auto industry is now trying to make its gasoline engines as economical as
possible. The first saving was that of power steering. When this was driven by
pulleys attached to the crankshaft, and therefore used power, this was making
the cars more thirsty. The answer? Drive the power steering with electricity.
Another method to counteract thirsty engines is to downsize. A 1.3 liter engine
is more economical than a 2 liter engine, but it is less powerful. To try and
get round this problem with downsized engines, many manufacturers have turned
again to turbocharging, but encounter the turbo lag problem.
There is another way of getting more petrol/air mixture into the cylinder head,
and that is supercharging. However, the supercharger usually takes power to
drive it because it is belt driven from the crankshaft. The horsepower required
to drive the blower on a typical OEM supercharger may be 50 to 60 BHP at full
This is where the concept of electrically driven supercharging would appear to
have an enormous plus. Instead of being crankshaft driven and sapping the power,
an electrically operated supercharger would give instant boost within
milliseconds, irrespective of engine crankshaft speed, and without the large
losses of the belt driven blowers.
GM and Chrysler bust - is Ford next?
After Chrysler, GM have now gone Chapter 11 Bankruptcy
protection. How the mighty have fallen! Two years ago in this column we
predicted that GM would go to the wall, while all the time their top
executives were awarding themselves multi-million dollar bonus packages. For
what? For overseeing the biggest catastrophe in the history of US car
Some pundits have been wondering if the Chapter 11 will kill GM’s sales. Why
wonder? Of course it will. With many GM dealers being phased out, and the total
air of uncertainty, would you be rushing down to the local GM dealer for your
next SUV? Answer truthfully!
There are some who are predicting that Ford is next to go, but I don’t think so.
Whilst things have been tight over at the Blue Oval, FoMoCo has not accepted any
government money and is in no immediate danger of going under financially.
Back to Ford, it may have lost a record $14.7 billion last year and hasn’t
posted an annual profit since 2005, but new CEO Alan Mulally predicts that Ford
may return to profitability by 2011 because of cost cutting and building more
fuel-efficient new models that consumers are demanding.
Ford is also increasing production, after the cut-backs of last year. North
American output will rise by 10,000 vehicles from its previous plan to 445,000
this quarter, and third-quarter production will be up 42,000 vehicles from a
year earlier to 460,000. Ford’s market share has also gone up for the past seven
months, as its rivals have stuttered.
The stock market has also reflected the (cautious) optimism at Ford. Ford stocks
rose 6.6 percent, to $6.13 and the shares have more than doubled this year, for
a gain bigger than those of all except three companies in the Standard & Poor’s
Whether it is Alan Mulally or just a better corporate think tank over there in
Dearborn, I do not see Ford going under. Quite the opposite. But will it get
back to being the world number 2? Probably not.
British motorists claim BMW drivers are
In a highly doubtful piece of “research”, it is claimed by Auto
Trader Compare, the motor insurance comparison service from the UK’s largest
motoring website, that BMW owners are deemed to be the worst drivers on the
UK’s roads according to a massive 59 percent of respondents, followed by
Subaru drivers (42 percent), Porsche drivers (39 percent), Audi drivers (30
percent) and Mercedes-Benz drivers (27 percent).
what a BMW can give you!
BMW drivers are most associated with bad or inefficient driving according to the
survey, with 68 percent of respondents claiming that bad drivers of these
vehicles drive too fast, overtake in dangerous situations (66 percent),
intimidate other road users (66 percent) and drive too close to the car in front
The survey, conducted amongst more than 1,500 UK motorists nationwide, shows
that outdated driving myths are still prevalent, with 37 percent still believing
that men are generally better drivers than women and that van drivers are the
worst on the road (100 percent), followed by young drivers (98 percent), old
drivers (90 percent), taxi drivers (78 percent) and ‘school run mums’ (78
percent). Bus and heavy goods vehicle drivers were considered to be the best
‘Sunday drivers’ were classed as the worst type of driver (53 percent), followed
by ‘rush-hour drivers’ (43 percent).
It seems that UK motorists are happy to find fault in other road users, but not
in themselves as the survey results also show that 22 percent of motorists
rating their own driving as ‘excellent’ and 63 percent as ‘good’.
Mind you, I have to say that generally the British drivers are far more aware
than those in Thailand, no matter what they drive!
Valentino Rossi to Ferrari?
This has been coming up for the past two or three years, ever
since Rossi had a drive in an F1 Ferrari and lapped within 1.5 seconds of
Michael Schumacher’s time. Undoubtedly a spectacular effort, but Rossi has
always said that his ambitions are on two wheels, and getting Yamaha to the
top is one of them. That he has done, so what is next? Four wheels and
Ferrari? Please note that Rossi’s Yamaha sports Fiat advertising, and Fiat
just happens to own Ferrari. And Rossi is Italian!
A complicating factor is the current squabble between Ferrari and the FIA as
far as the formula for 2010 is concerned, with Ferrari threatening to
withdraw. For once, I am totally in agreement with Ferrari. The proposed two
tier classes for F1 destroys the very basis of the ‘premier’ formula.
However, I am sure that a compromise will eventually be reached, as F1
cannot afford to be without Ferrari (and Renault, Toyota and Red Bull, who
are also threatening to leave), so there will still be F1 in 2010.
So will Rossi be wearing red Nomex instead of his leathers? If he wins this
year’s Moto GP championship, I expect him to switch to four wheels. You read
it here first.